Thirsty? As Big Sky grows, so does its demand for water. But not every well is created equal.

Continuing the quest for water

Big Sky County Water & Sewer District takes a closer look at Cascade wells
"One option is to drill deeper to get around the arsenic. Drill deeper to beat the arsenic, otherwise you look at walking away from that well altogether,” Hellekson said.

The complex task of finding additional water to support Big Sky’s growing thirst continues.

Stacey Hellekson, project engineer with Woodard & Curran spoke to the Big Sky County Water & Sewer Board of Directors during their January meeting. Specifics were presented for the two wells located in the Mountain Village: Cascade Wells 5 and 6 – each of which has its issues. Well 5 is low-producing but has potential. Well 6 has better production but is problematic because of high levels of arsenic. 

“One option is to drill deeper to get around the arsenic. Drill deeper to beat the arsenic, otherwise you look at walking away from that well altogether,” Hellekson said. 

Ron Edwards, general manager of BSW&SD said he would need to see the numbers to justify re-drilling in lieu of reentry. 

“We’ve got water quality issues, water use agreements with the resort, we’ve got a whole lot of stuff to sort out before we get to the nitty gritty of treatment. Whether we rework Well 6 or we go look for new wells, that set of problems is attached to any well now and any well in the future,” board member Peter Manka said. 

Treatment solutions for the tainted water are also possible. Hellekson mentioned chlorination while board member Bill Shropshire discussed how chemical company, Carus Corporation, is interested in using Well 6 to test a product-slash-process of absorbing the arsenic via a powder, launching into a lengthy and complex explanation of how it works. 

The product under development is a mixed metal oxide of calcium, manganese and iron in powder form. Carus asked Shropshire to facilitate a meeting with BSW&SD officials. According to Shropshire the product “could conceivably be in a treatment chain” with a sand filter. “The company believes they can reduce or even remove the arsenic,” he said. 

Edwards said he was receptive to a discussion with Carus.

“In an ideal world, if we could find a well further up Cascade… we are not committed to this well just because it is drilled and in place,” Manka said. “There are a lot of questions: what can we do with the water and how much can it bring?”

Well 5 is producing from a different aquifer than Well 6, Edwards pointed out. 

“These all get blended from Cascade right now. This gets complicated if one of the wells has arsenic,” Edwards said before requesting cost estimates for the various options from Woodard & Curran for the next board meeting and also noting that some budget has been set aside to look for another well.

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